As I’m doing a bit of volunteering in Sri Lanka and am not planning to fly back to India until early February, I found myself in the position of having to extend my 30-day eVisa. Unlike India, this is possible, and can be done within a day.
Before heading to the office in Colombo, I read a number of blogs on this topic, and felt prepared to face the anticipated administrative chaos. However, it turns out that the Department of Immigration and Emigration has moved to new premises in the suburb of Battaramulla. This means the administrative chaos is still present, but the desk names have all changed.
Here’s what to do – and which desks to go to – if you’re extending your visa in 2017 at the new offices.
What to Bring
- Passport with at least six months validity remaining.
- Completed visa extension form – to save time, you can download this from the website.
- 1 passport-sized photograph
- Money for visa fee (for UK citizens it was $54, most countries paid less).
The form will ask you to provide proof of a return flight or onward visa, as well as other supporting documents. I didn’t have these, and didn’t have any problems. You don’t need to provide evidence of finances for a first extension of the eVisa.
The offices in Kotte are much further away from Colombo than the old centre in Punchi Borella. The new address is:
“Suhurupaya”, Subuthi Dr, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka
It’s too far to walk to from Colombo, so your travel options are:
- Tuk tuk – I reluctantly did this in the morning due to not realising the offices had moved until the last minute. I paid 1000LKR for a 40 minute drive, and think I got ripped off.
- Bus – lines 171 goes from Colombo Fort to Battaramulla. Going back, I found that there were frequent buses. The journey back was 35 Rs.
Once you get there, you will be directed up to the fourth floor, which is where the visa department is located.
A Note On Timing
To get your visa same day, you must submit the application by 1.30pm. However, they do not accept payments after 2.30pm, and it took me way more than an hour to get to the payment stage. I’d advise that you get there as early as possible.
Once you get there, you’ll be ushered into room ‘C,’ a throng of confused people all trying to figure out what on earth they need to do. Despite the new building, the room is not air conditioned and there’s no fan, so get read to spend a good few hours sweltering. There are a number of confusingly-named desks and little evident signage.
There are a couple of tiny A4 posters supposedly explaining the process, but these are hard to find and actually miss out certain steps. Here is what you need to do and where you need to go, step by step.
1) Fill in your form and collect your token number
If you have a form and your documents ready, give them to the attendants on the left as you enter room C. They will stamp the form, return it to you and issue you with a token. This is a tiny piece of paper containing a number: don’t lose it.
If you haven’t got a form, you can get one from the attendants at the token counter. Fill it in and return it to them for your stamp token. There is a man in the corner with a laptop who will take a picture for you if you don’t have one. Make sure to stick it on with the glue provided before you return it to the desk.
2) Submit your documents in Room B
Once your form is completed and you have your token, you need to turn round leave room C and go to room B, which is on your left. Don’t, as I did, waste 20 minutes by assuming that the next desk is one of the many in the room you’re already in.
Once in room B, join one of the queues. Here, you hand over your passport and completed form to one of the Commissioners. The queue took about half an hour, and the official didn’t check my application at all. I also didn’t get any receipt.
3) Get your approved form and passport back
Return to room C and be prepared to wait a while. Go to the left hand side of the room; you’re waiting to be called from the Visa Issuing Counters. Every 15 minutes or so, the official behind the desk will call out a rapid sequence of token numbers. There did not appear to be any discernible sort of order, so listen carefully every time numbers are shouted. This stage was the longest wait; it took over two hours.
Once your number is called, push through the crowds gathered near the desk with your token to collect your passport and form. The bottom section will now have been filled in by an official, as below.
Walk over to the confusingly named Shroff Counter on the other side of the room and join the queue – here, you don’t need to wait to be called. This was the easiest bit and I was queueing for less than ten minutes here.
Fees for the visa extension are reciprocal and depend on what your country charges Sri Lankans. I paid $54, but Americans will have to fork out $100. You can see the charges for your country here.
When you pay, they will take away your form and passport and issue you with a receipt like the one below.
5)Pick up your passport – now with visa
For this final stage, return to the frantic side of Room C with your receipt and token. You’re now back in purgatory waiting for your number to be called again from the Visa Issuing Counters. This took almost another 2 hours. I have no idea why – I assume the actual approval was earlier, so essentially it took them 2 hours to put a sticker in a passport.
This time, when your number is called, your passport will finally be ready for you to collect, complete with a brand new sticker granting you the requisite visa extension. You can finally throw away your token, emerge into the fresh air, and go and get some much needed food.
As you can surely tell, I didn’t think much of the system for extending the visa. It was incredibly confusing, with the fact that the same desk was used for two stages of the process creating a huge crowd in one area of the room. To have an official shouting numbers, rather than an automated token system, seemed needlessly antiquated; surely, given that they’ve invested in a new building, they could have introduced a computer system too? And there was no signage and no guidance, meaning that it was utter chaos. I love Sri Lanka, but this process needs a serious redesign.